Historic, archived document
Do not assume content reflects current
scientific knowledge, policies, or practices
CIRCULAR No. 293 NOVEMBER 1933
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
A PIONEER ONE-VARIETY COTTON COM]
COLLIN COUNTY, TEX.
By R. F. Saunders, agent, Division of Cotton, Rubber, and Other Tropical Plants,
Bureau of Plant Industry
Conditions prior to 1923 2
Need for improvement in production recog-
Efforts to adopt a single variety 3
Variety tests 3
Field meetings 4
A gin-unit community organized 5
Efforts to adopt a single variety— Continued.
Organization by farmers of a standardiza-
tion association 5
Cooperation of ginners necessary :__ 6
Difficulties in marketing 6
Importance of community leadership 8
Summary ._ - 10
In 1923 a pioneer effort was begun in Collin County, Tex., for im-
proving the production of cotton by raising only a single variety.
The undertaking was continued for several years and received a large
measure of popular interest and support. Notable progress was made,
so that the advantages of a standardized production of a single variety
of cotton were clearly shown and were generally recognized by the
farmers. Later, difficulties in marketing were encountered which kept
the improved system of production from becoming definitely estab-
lished, but it is believed that the experience of the undertaking may
be of practical use in the development of one-variety communities in
More obstacles may have appeared because the entire county was
included in the project than would have been encountered if the be-
ginning had been made with a smaller community. However, a
knowledge of the different kinds of obstacles that are likely to arise
in the development of community organizations is desirable. The
drawbacks and handicaps that individual farmers have had to struggle
against in attempting to improve their crops of cotton are not
fully understood or appreciated until an effort is made to establish a
The undertaking in Collin County surmounted all of the early
obstacles to the point of completely demonstrating that the production
and quality of the cotton could be greatly improved by standardizing
on the basis of a single variety. Through the splendid cooperation
and interest of everyone concerned it seemed certain that a complete
success could be made of the undertaking, since the farmers were able
to sell their cotton through the community association at an advance of
$2 to $5 per bale. However, as a result of this advance in price much
I CIRCULAR 293. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
cotton of inferior quality was sent in from the surrounding districts.
This influx of poor cotton injured the reputation of the community
cotton to such an extent that it lost the advantage it had previously
enjoyed in the local market. Separate marketing of the good com-
munity cotton was then attempted, but the formation of a local
marketing association was opposed. The financial support of the
community undertaking was withdrawn, and the price advantages
were lost, together with the outside business that the improvement
effort had attracted. The decline began in 1930, and by 1931 the
compress receipts had fallen back below the level of 1925.
The temporary success and ultimate failure of this improvement
undertaking, with the attending circumstances, are described in this
CONDITIONS PRIOR TO 1923
Collin County is situated in the black-land district of northern Texas
and has long been considered one of the leading cotton-producing
counties of the State. The area in cotton averages about 250,000
acres, with an average production of one-fourth bale or more per acre.
The county was recognized as a leader in the use of good seed, which
was being sold by local ginners, bankers, and farmers, as well as by
itinerant seed salesmen. However, prior to 1923, no attention had
been given to the need of standardizing the crop by holding to one
variety, as a means of keeping the seed pure and the lint uniform. A
leading ginner in the county was selling 10 different varieties of cotton-
seed to his customers for planting purposes, in an effort to supply any
variety that a customer wanted. Each farmer was advised to plant
at least two varieties, on the theory that his chances of crop failure
would be lessened by such a practice. Many seed sellers represented
their special variety to the farmers as superior to any other on the
The outlay for good seed had no general effect of improvement in
the absence of any adequate precautions for keeping the many varie-
ties from being mixed at the gins. Farmers often tried to protect the
purity of their seed at the gin by bringing two bales of cotton at a
time, allowing the seed of the first bale to go to the seed house, and
catching the seed of the second bale for planting. In many instances
the farmer would bring only one bale and would let the first portion of
seed go to the seed house and catch the remainder for planting pur-
poses. This practice has long been known to be entirely inadequate
as a means of preserving the purity of seed stock s. 1 2
NEED FOR IMPROVEMENT IN PRODUCTION RECOGNIZED
Although a large percentage of the cotton acreage in Collin County
was being planted to pure seed each year, large lots of even-running
bales were not being produced. This was because many different
varieties were being planted, and no concerted effort was made to
keep them separate either in the field or at the gin.
There was not a single stock of pure seed in Texas that would
plant the entire acreage of Collin County. In fact, the county was
planting each year as much seed as all the reputable seed breeders in
• Saunders. D. A., and Cardox, P. V. custom ginning as a factor ix cottox-seed deterioratiox.
U.S. Dept. Agr. Bui. 2sS. S p., illus. 1915.
- Ballard, W. W.. and Doyle. C. B. cottox-seed mixing ixcreased by moderx gix equipment.
U.S. Dept. Agr. Circ. 205, 12 p., illus. 1922.
A PIONEER ONE-VARIETY COTTON COMMUNITY 6
Texas were producing, and it became evident to some of the leading
growers that the limited supply of pure seed must be increased locally
if the pure-seed program were to become effective. The formation
of a one-variety community appeared to be the only logical way to
achieve this end. The immediate objective was to make available
to the farmers of Collin County an adequate supply of pure seed of a
single variety; the ultimate objective was better and more uniform
cotton in commercial quantities.
EFFORTS TO ADOPT A SINGLE VARIETY
It was recognized that one of the first problems in establishing a
one-variety community would be to get the farmers united on one
variety of cotton. In order to do this it was necessary to correct
Figure 1. — The first one-variety cotton meeting in Collin County, Tex., August 11, 1923.
certain misinformation that had been supplied to farmers by well-
meaning friends or by seed salesmen seeking to make a sale and
collect a commission. This was undertaken by means of local variety
tests. Eight popular varieties of cotton were planted in as many
widely separated communities. Reputable farmers were selected to
plant the test plots. The varieties were planted by numbers, and the
key to the tests was retained until results were complete. The prin-
cipal accomplishment of this test was to demonstrate to the farmers
the difficulty in distinguishing one of the " varieties" from another
when planted in adjoining rows.
The county agricultural agent called a cotton-field meeting in
August 1923, and a selected group of farmers, ginners, and bankers
attended (fig. 1). The purpose of the gathering was to study the
variety tests. Less than 5 percent of the growers were able to dis-
tinguish their favorite variety from the eight included in the tests.
The cottonseed salesmen present on the occasion experienced the same
difficulty, much to the amusement of the growers.
4 CIRCULAR 293, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
A locally bred variety with 1 to 1 ^-inch staple led in lint production
per acre in 7 of the 8 tests. Since this variety had a low lint per-
centage, it afforded a good demonstration that varieties with low lint
percentage are not necessarily low producers of lint per acre, as has
been generally accepted by proponents of varieties with high gin
So much interest was manifested in the 1923 field meeting that it
was made an annual affair. The first meetings were confined to
selected groups of farmers and business men from widely scattered
sections of the county. The programs included talks by members of
the staff of the Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College and the
State agricultural experiment station, and by cotton spinners.
Motion pictures, visits to cotton mills, cotton gins, and cotton fields
Figure 2.— Farmers studying cotton in the field. A feature of each annual meeting in Collin County was
a supervised field study of one-variety cotton projects.
were also included in the programs. The most interesting and bene-
ficial part of the programs was the meeting of farmers, spinners,
business men, educators, and research men in the cotton field (fig. 2).
Most of the meetings were attended by the superintendent or other
members of the staff of the United States Cotton-Breeding Field
Station at Greenville, Tex.
The first meeting, held in 1923, was attended by 50 farmers and
business men. This number grew with each succeeding meeting
until in 1928 750 farmers attended (fig. 3). The one thing that was
unanimously agreed upon at these meetings was that only one variety
of cotton should be grown in the community. Differences of opinion,
however, as to the best variety to grow presented a serious obstacle,
largely because the growers had been confused by promoters of the
different varieties, many of which had never been tested.
A PIONEER ONE-VARIETY COTTON COMMUNITY O
A GIN-UNIT COMMUNITY ORGANIZED
The first organization of a single-variety cotton community in
Collin County was formed by farmers around the Lucas gin in 1924.
Approximately 3,000 acres were planted with seed of the Sunshine
variety, and the cotton was ginned exclusively by the Lucas Gin Co.
There was no organized effort to sell planting seed, and each farmer
disposed of his seed as he wished. This resulted in most of the seed
being sold locally.
The movement was extended by making arrangements with ginners
in other communities to set aside special days for ginning Sunshine
cotton. This made large quantities of pure seed available in several
districts at low cost to the farmers.
s v L
■v ?C :
' .. "- : ; :
Figure 3.— A group of 750 growers, interested in one-variety production, attending the meeting in Collin
County, Tex., in 1928. A gin for one-variety cotton is shown in the background. Community adjust-
ments of ginning are necessary to avoid mixing the seed.
ORGANIZATION BY FARMERS OF A STANDARDIZATION ASSOCIATION
The farmers, believing that there was an excessive amount of preju-
dice and confusion among the growers of cotton in Collin County
relative to the best variety of cotton to plant, decided at the 1927
field meeting to form an organization to be known as the Collin
County Standardization Association. The 300 farmers attending
the meeting became charter members. The object of the association
was to promote one-variety production of cotton.
Growers present at the meeting agreed that every attempt to
standardize a community on one-variety production was complicated
by the multitude of salesmen who flocked in to sell seed. When the
salesmen finished criticizing each other's product, the community
was so confused and provoked that nothing was accomplished. It
was the opinion of members of this organization that if the farmers of
a community were permitted to meet without the seedsmen, results
could be accomplished that would be beneficial to all. Meetings were
therefore held to which seedsmen were not admitted. However,
local men were contacted by the seedsmen, and arrangements made
6 CIRCULAR 293, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
for commissions on any sales made, so that often several seed com-
panies were represented in the community. In this way the variety
question became more confused than ever, as these growers, bankers,
and ginners were working under the guise of community interest.
As a result the association advised the farmers of the county to
disregard the conflicting reports and advice of cottonseed salesmen and
cotton buyers and to give more attention to the information given out
by the State and Federal experiment stations.
The influence of this organization was felt throughout the county,
with the result that the following season 17 ginners provided separate
ginning facilities for as many groups of farmers. These communities
had a membership of 1,500 farmers producing approximately 15.000
bales of cotton annually.
COOPERATION OF GINNERS NECESSARY
Trade relations brought about by one-variety production are of
much importance in carrying on a program of this kind. The ginner
is usually the first business man to be affected, and when he has been
convinced of the advantages to be gained from one-variety production
he is usually willing to cooperate to the fullest extent in seeing it
Ginners of the same community are frequently induced to promote
different varieties on the assumption that it will increase their patron-
age. A prominent ginner in one of the Collin County communities
was induced by a seed salesman to promote a new and untested strain
of cotton. The salesman placed large advertisements in the local
papers telling of the wonders of this new strain and grossly mis-
represented the cotton. Several carloads of the new seed were sold
in the community, even though the farmers had selected and were
trying to standardize on another variety. The breeder of the new
stock probably suffered a loss in order to introduce his seed in this
particular' community, since the seed was extensively advertised and
was sold at a reduced price. Fortunately for the community, this
untested strain failed the first year, and the experience actually helped
to unite the farmers more solidly on the original variety.
Many ginners oppose the introduction of better staple varieties and
foster the shorter staple varieties that gin easier and are reputed to
clean better. This is not altogether the fault of the ginners them-
selves, for high lint percentage, rather than acre yield or length of
staple, has been the chief concern of the grower, and unless the ginner
could give him a high gin turn-out he was dissatisfied. This has
caused many ginners to promote varieties possessing this character,
even though they may be interested in improvements in the quality
of the crop through the planting of better varieties.
DIFFICULTIES IN MARKETING
Leading growers learned that the better fiber produced in their one-
variety communities was being sold to manufacturers at substantial
premiums and that buyers from cotton nulls were visiting the market
at McKinney regularly to obtain this good cotton.
The local buyers began to pay a higher basis price for cotton at
McKinney, as compared with the price at neighboring points, but
with no definite recognition of the superior quality that the growers of
A PIONEER ONE-VARIETY COTTON COMMUNITY (
one-variety cotton were producing. Difficulty then arose because
the higher prices paid at McKinney soon attracted farmers from other
communities, who soon were hauling considerable quantities of inferior
cotton to McKinney, in order to take advantage of the higher prices
being paid there. One farmer was known to have hauled 48 bales of
cotton 150 miles by truck and to have sold it for $5 per bale net above
what he was offered on his local market. Thousands of bales were
hauled from other communities, as indicated by a gradual rise in local
receipts at the McKinney compress: 22,855 bales were received from a
91,444-bale crop in 1925 and 27,354 bales from a 73,322 bale crop in
1928, or 25 percent of the 1925 crop and 37 percent of the 1928 crop.
After 1928, one-variety production was practically discontinued, and
the high-point basis enjoyed by McKinney was soon lost, as shown by
the gradual decline in local compress receipts from 1929 to 1931.
In 1929 the compress received 23,309 bales from a 71,748-bale crop,
or 33 percent, and in 1931 it received 23,369 out of a 102,000-bale
crop, or 22 percent.
The leading growers of Collin County, foreseeing the results of
bringing in the poor cotton from other districts, attempted to develop
an inexpensive system of separate marketing of good fiber that would
reward each grower for the quality of cotton produced. They
undertook to assemble one-variety cotton in 100-bale lots and sell on
a staple basis. Unfortunately, this effort was made during the rapidly
declining market of 1926-27, and the association was never able to
get a pool of 100 bales together. This plan was abandoned without
having had a fair test, but the interest of the growers was not lessened
by the failure, and a committee was appointed to study the marketing
problem. As a result of this study, the Texas Cotton Cooperative
Association was requested to form a separate pool for one-variety
cotton when it could be assembled in commercial lots, but this was
deemed impractical by the association at that time.
The committee then conferred with officials of the Texas Cotton
Association, a trade organization including the principal export firms
of Texas and other States, and also with members of the Dallas,
Houston, and Waco cotton exchanges, in an effort to develop a
workable plan. Arrangements were finally made with a broker to
act as salesman for the community association, with an understanding
that the broker continue his private business until the association
members produced enough cotton to require his exclusive services,
when outside business was to be discontinued. This program proved
highly satisfactory to those patronizing it. One hundred and sixty
farmers sold through the association broker and were satisfied without
exception. The farmers estimated that they had received an average
of $5 per bale above the best price obtainable on local markets.
However, the program was vigorously opposed by local cotton interests
and was finally broken up.
Many farmers were obligated to business institutions and individuals
who objected to their shipping cotton through the association.
Many of the business men had been led to believe, by local buyers,
that selling all the good cotton through a broker would destroy
Mc Kinney's basis. It was difficult, however, for the farmers in this
association to believe that the efforts of the business men to keep them
from selling their cotton through the community association on
staple merits were sincere. Several members of the association tried
8 CIRCULAR 293, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
selling cotton of untenderable length through the broker and found
that it would bring more on the local market than on the central
market. One farmer offered a half-and-half bale on the local market,
but sold it through the association broker the same day for $4 less
than he was offered on the local market. This same farmer had a
bale of 1-inch cotton that the broker sold for $3 more than the local
market would pay. The association sales indicated clearly that a
farmer could sell short-staple cotton on the local market above
central market price but that he was penalized on the better cotton.
One of the association members was called to his bank and advised
to discontinue shipping his cotton. He was depending on the bank
for financing, and, although he estimated that he was profiting $5
per bale by selling through the association, he felt that he must
discontinue selling in this manner because of the attitude of the
banker. The banker tried to justify his action by claiming that the
customer was taking a chance of losing his cotton, but the farmer
knew that the salesman was under bond and that his cotton was
The activities of the community association caused cotton to sell
on its merits to a greater extent than ever before. Buyers would pay
all that the good cotton was worth, in order to keep it from being
sold through the association. Farmers outside of the organization
used it to advantage in " prying" the market. They frequently
obtained higher prices by threatening to ship through the association.
Where a one-variety program is successful, it probably will attract
trade from other communities. This will cause friction unless the
project covers a large area. Such a condition was well illustrated at
MeKinney. As previously stated, that town was transformed from
a low-point market to one of the best in the State by virtue of its
lead in this movement. Some transportation lines and towns in
adjoining counties, feeling the effect of the sudden influx of cotton to
MeKinney, complained; others took the constructive view and under-
took to build a market equal or superior to that in MeKinney by
standardizing production of a superior strain of cotton in their own
community. Where this was accomplished, spreads of $2 per bale
in favor of MeKinney were wiped out, and many of the towns that
were losing trade to that market in 1929 have been able to recover
IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP
Leadership in the Collin County one-variety project was centered
around the county agent to an extent that undoubtedly weakened
the undertaking. Although the practical possibilities of improvement
had been demonstrated, the farmers did not obtain the advantages
that were necessary to maintain the project. A wide interest had
developed among the farmers, as shown by the large attendance at
annual meetings and the number of communities participating in the
one-variety program, but it appeared in the end that a larger element
of local leadership was necessary in order to reach practical solutions
of the marketing problems.
To people who did not appreciate the need of community coopera-
tion in the improvement of the crop, it appeared that the county
agent's activities were not on normal lines. Motives of personal
interest were imputed, and mistaken inferences were drawn to break
A PIONEER ONE-VARIETY COTTON COMMUNITY 9
down the influence of the agent, even to spreading the report that he
was getting paid to promote the particular variety that the community
had selected. Although more than 90 percent of the crop income of
Collin County was from cotton, and the agent had spent less than
10 percent of his official time on the cotton project, he was criticized
for devoting too much time to this phase of his work.
When the community effort had developed to the point where it
appeared that better prices for the cotton could be obtained in other
markets than the local buyers were willing to pay, active opposition
arose to what was considered as interference with the business of
individuals and firms interested in buying cotton locally and in selling
outside seed to the farmers. It was argued that the community
cotton should be sold locally, as in the past. The buyers did not
appreciate the need of paying suitable premiums to encourage the
progressive farmers who were attempting to establish a regular pro-
duction of better cotton in the county. They rested on the usual
assumption that farmers should be satisfied with a slight advance in
basis price for the local market as a whole, instead of trying to get
the market value of their improved fiber. The commercial opposition
to the community undertaking resulted in a withdrawal by the
county commissioners of the regular support of the county agent's
work. Sufficient local interest was shown in the one-variety program
for the deficit to be made up by public subscription, but this arrange-
ment placed the work on an undesirable footing, and the agent
A new agent was appointed, and county funds were again made
available, but the one-variety work was omitted from the official
program. The community undertaking had continued for 6 years
and was recognized in many quarters as a notable success, but it was
not continued. If the growers in the various communities had as-
sumed more active leadership themselves, other adjustments of the
marketing problem might have been worked out, and the improve-
ment undertaking might not have lapsed so completely with the
change in county agents.
The teaching of experience in this undertaking, and in others of
similar nature, is that community improvements of production need
to rest definitely on a basis of local interest and activity by the
farmers themselves. County agents or other officials may give
valuable assistance in the early stages of development of community
projects, but the initiative and management of such undertakings
should remain with the actual producers of cotton. If outside agencies
are relied upon, there is serious danger that a state of passive indif-
ference will be reached. Very likely the farmers will not attain a suffi-
cient understanding of their community interests and responsibilities
to work out and apply the successive measures of improvement
which are made possible after the one-variety conditions of production
are established. Since the local interest and leadership must deter-
mine the nature and extent of the development that is possible, these
factors must be considered as first essentials in any community
The project of organizing the entire county as a one-variety com-
munity may have been premature. The development of a limited
district at first might have resulted in greater local interest and
initiative on the part of the farmers, and a more gradual adjustment
10 CIRCULAR 293, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
of the commercial interests to the system of improved production
might have been possible. The need of changing the buying system
in order to make possible a permanent improvement of production
is becoming more generally understood, not only by cooperative-
marketing organizations but also by the more progressive commercial
interests. The discouragement of the one-variety effort in Collin
County was soon recognized locally as a short-sighted policy, even
from the commercial standpoint. The loss of potential value that
would have accrued from the growing of better cotton merely by
giving attention to the pure-seed problem, with scarcely any increase
in labor or other costs of production, could be estimated conserva-
tively in hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The farmers of Collin County, Tex., recognizing that a large
expenditure for pure seed was bringing no returns on account of the
multiplicity of varieties grown, embarked upon a one-variety program
in 1923. Disregarding the often extravagant claims of seedsmen,
they attempted to find out the facts about varieties for themselves
by making variety tests at several localities in the county. A good
variety was selected, growers' associations were organized, and a large
measure of success attended the undertaking. The first effect was
a substantial increase in prices in the local "hog round'' market.
But the increased prices attracted inferior cotton from other districts,
and the local growers soon realized that they would have to arrange
to sell then cotton on its merits. Efforts to do this locally were unsuc-
cessful and the growers had to go to a broker outside their community
to accomplish this end. The movement broke down at this point
through the active opposition of business interests to a change of the
local marketing system.
The one-variety movement was carried far enough to demonstrate
its advantages, and the farmers of Collin County still have confidence
in the one-variety plan of production. With an adequate supply of
good seed at a reasonable price and freedom from outside interference,
it is believed that standardizing the coimty on a one-variety basis
could be easily accomplished.
ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
WHEN THIS PUBLICATION WAS LAST PRINTED
Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace.
Assistant Secretary Rexford G. Tug well.
Director of Scientific Work A. F. Woods.
Director of Extension Work C. W. Warburton.
Director of Personnel and Business Adminis- W. W. Stockberger.
Director of Information M. S. Eisenhower.
Solicitor Seth Thomas.
Bureau of Agricultural Economics Nils A. Olsen, Chief.
Bureau of Agricultural Engineering S. H. McCrory, Chief.
Bureau of Animal Industry John R. M ohler, Chief.
Bureau of Biological Survey Paul G. Redington, Chief.
Bureau of Chemistry and Soils H. G. Knight, Chief.
Office of Cooperative Extension Work C. B. Smith, Chief.
Bureau of Dairy Industry O. E. Reed, Chief.
Bureau of Entomology Lee A. Strong, Chief.
Office of Experiment Stations James T. Jardine, Chief.
Food and Drug Administration Walter G. Campbell, Chief.
Forest Service Ferdinand A. Silcox, Chief.
Grain Futures Administration J. W. T. Duvel, Chief.
Bureau of Home Economics Louise Stanley, Chief.
Library Claribel R. Barnett, Librarian.
Bureau of Plant Industry William A. Taylor, Chief.
Bureau of Plant Quarantine A. S. Hoyt, Acting Chief.
Bureau of Public Roads Thomas H. MacDonald, Chief.
Weather Bureau Charles F. Marvin, Chief.
Agricultural Adjustment Administration George N. Peek ; Administrator.
This circular is a contribution from
Bureau of Plant Industry William A. Taylor, Chief.
Division of Cotton, Rubber, and Other O. F. Cook, Principal Botanist, in
Tropical Plants. Charge.
U. S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE: 1933
For sale by the Superintendent of Documents. Washington, D.C. ------- Price 5 cents